The Langhe took shape in my adolescent imagination when, in the third grade, the professor of literature proposed us the complete reading of “La malora”. The Langhe, declared in 2014 together with the territories of Roero and Monferrato “Unesco World Heritage Site”, are the undisputed protagonists of Fenoglio’s novel: at the centre of the narration they narrate, in a vivid and acute fresco, the rural condition of the beginning of the century so closely linked to the landscape of the Langhe and its agricultural culture.
I met the Langhe many years after my first “contact” with Fenoglio, while I was on holiday in Piedmont in search of Pavesian suggestions in the middle of August, often the journeys are really surprising because of this: busy looking for something else unexpected.
My name will suffice for me, the two dates that only count, and the qualification of writer and partisan. It seems to me that I have done better this than that.
In the meantime my knowledge with Beppe Fenoglio had matured, especially as a passionate university lecturer, especially with “The partisan Johnny” (Einaudi, 1968) in my opinion one of the works unattainable and complete on the Resistance, and “I ventritrè giorni della città di Alba” (Einaudi, 1952) twelve stories about the partisan war and peasant life.
My trip to the Langhe di Fenoglio was characterised by the alternation of nature, literary places and wine tastings which, given the excellence of the local production, are really worth it.
The itinerary, supported by local friends who are great lovers of literature and excellent wines, began with the small village of Mango, situated in the heart of Monferrato and home of Moscato D.o.c.g. The origins of the small town date back to the late 1200s and in Fenoglio’s works it appears in “the Partisan Johnny”, occupied by pro-monarchist partisans. In particular the Campanile di Mango is at the centre of the narrative temporal scanning.
Inside the Borgo it is possible to follow a literary itinerary dedicated to the writer. The Castle, now used as a regional wine bar of Moscato is certainly worth a visit: here we tasted the various nuances of Moscato and with great passion we were told about the production chain and how the various vintages are evaluated. Animate by the effect of wine tasting, what strikes from the first stage is the ability to perceive the sensations, the atmospheres, the suggestions that exhale from Fenoglio’s work: the words leave room for the images of places and nature, an essential union in the author’s narration.
Following it is Barbaresco, from which the homonymous wine, which during the Resistance hosted a group of partisans opposed to the faction in which Fenoglio militated. Here the boundary between narration and reality is really blurred: what the author narrated, he really experienced in these places, with his steps, his glances in the territories that he has recoloured with his words.
The Fortresses on the Tanaro are a recurring Fenogliano place of unquestionable charm: they delimit a natural boundary and at the same time, like much of the morphology of the terriotory, they help the traveller to understand ambushes and movements and the difficulties of resistance and partisan war.
At this point of the journey my fellow travellers were increasingly interested: I noticed that this type of journey involved both expert readers and lovers of nature and history, due to the peculiarity of the place.
With our eight-seater van, after having enjoyed an excellent lunch with local products and wines, through endless vineyards halfway between the Bormida and Belbo Valleys, we arrive at Castino, with its castle, the old washhouse, the paved districts: the small centre appears both in the “Partisan Johnny” with the raking of the 18 houses and the farmhouse which houses the “the malora“. One is astonished to see how the scenes narrated and remembered with the words of the works materialise in these places, with all their cruelty to which time gives an almost epic flavour.
The next day we went to other centres considered fundamental. We started our landscape novel on Fenoglio’s tracks from Mombarco: it is considered the roof of the Langhe with the 896 mt of altitude, in the writer’s pages it hosts the beginning of Johnny-Beppe’s partisan activity. The descriptions of the hills, nature and the geographical context are often cruel and melancholic and are a clear example of how the Langhe territory was able to narrate the drama of the civil war. Beyond history, in the colours and silence of the Langhe, the survival of humanity is tangible, in its relationship with nature and the drama of the war.
Neive, Gorzegno, Neviglie, San Benedetto Belbo, are small towns mentioned in Fenoglio’s novels both as points of passage in the civil war and as the setting of peasant tales. The work of the vineyards, the commitment of the farmers in dominating with the vines in a territory of complex morphology emerges with all its strength. In every village the traces of the author are enhanced: for example in Murazzano we have discovered a real itinerary dedicated to the artist.
Alba took it in two thousand on October 10th and lost it in two hundred on November 2nd of 1944.
(The twenty-three days of the city of Alba)
The last day we dedicated it to the discovery of Alba.
The city, the absolute protagonist of the first work of the writer “I ventritrè giorni della città di Alba”, is characterized by a high quality food and wine that ranges from white truffle with Nutella, houses architecture from Roman to medieval style and offers the possibility of a very interesting walk.
It is in the heart of Alba that the emotion linked to Fenoglio’s words takes over: described in every phase of his life, from the adolescent idyll to the drama of combat, it represents the summa of Fenoglio’s narrations and those who want to discover the author’s places.
The “study center Beppe Fenoglio – house of Fenoglio” in Rossetti square, offers numerous itineraries and very specific travel ideas for those who want to explore the geographical, social and historical reality of the writer’s novels. In front of the centre stands the monument to the partisans with one of the most intimate and universal quotations of Fenoglio’s work and which also contains the sense of the journey to discover his places so deeply linked to his human and literary experience:.
Johnny thought that perhaps a partisan would be like him standing on the last hill, looking at the city and thinking the same about him and his news, on the evening of the day of his death. That’s the important thing: that there would always be one left.
(The partisan Johnny)